Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Thursday, April 15, the expert advisory panel that met yesterday decided to hold off on any decision to lift the pause on Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine for at least another week.

The panel met to discuss the rare blood clot condition that affected six people who were vaccinated with the J&J vaccine across the country.

Maine’s mobile vaccination clinic is currently using Moderna vaccine doses pulled from other facilities in the state. Appointments for the Windham site starting Sunday, April 18, Shah said, are still available. To schedule an appointment or inquire about transportation to the site, call 888-445-4111.

To view the mobile vaccination clinic schedule for the next few months, visit tinyurl.com/wrm6zznf.

Cumulatively, Shah said, 48% of those 16 and over have now received at least their first COVID-19 vaccine and 36% have gotten their second or final dose.

Next week Maine will receive 21,060 doses of the Pfizer vaccine and 15,400 of Moderna’s. Because of the pause on the J&J vaccine, he said, there is no new supply coming. Shah said these numbers represent a small increase in Pfizer and Moderna doses.

The Maine CDC reported today an additional 579 cases of COVID-19 across the state. As stated earlier in the week, Shah said not all of the cases occurred overnight. Since yesterday there were 124 new cases; 251 since April 13; 64 since April 12; 55 since April 11; and 94 since April 10.

Shah said the reason for the recent delays in reporting new cases is that the volume is more than his agency can process in a 24-hour period. Additional staff has been hired and shifts added to keep up with the influx of cases. "The process takes a little bit of time," he said.

An additional death was reported today — a man in his 80s from Oxford County. In all, there have been 758 deaths in Maine since the pandemic began.

As the older population in the state has gotten vaccinated, the virus now is spreading more rapidly, he said, among younger people. Last December the average age of people coming down with the virus was 43, he said. Today it is 35.

When asked what the key factors are in the rise in cases, Shah said transmission is occurring in a population that is not vaccinated, tends to hang out together, and with more variant strains popping up in the state that are more contagious. And counter to the previous hypothesis, Shah said, the variants are also more severe.

"Vaccination remains critical. I recommend everyone who is eligible to make an appointment," Shah said, adding that the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are both effective at protecting people against the variants.

With the increases in cases, there are also increases in the positivity rate, which is now at 3.5%, and increases in hospitalizations. Just a week ago, he said, there were 70 people in the hospital with COVID-19 — today there are over 100.

Commissioner Jeanne Lambrew of the Department of Health and Human Services said as case counts rise so does the importance of getting tested. She reminded people who may be traveling outside of New England, especially now as many schools are gearing up for spring break, to get tested or quarantine for 10 days when returning to the state if they are not fully vaccinated.

Shah defined “fully vaccinated” as 14 days out from the second Pfizer or Moderna shot or the single dose of the J&J vaccine.

When asked what her recommendation was for travel, Lambrew urged people to travel safely, keeping their distance and wearing a mask. "Get tested before coming back so you don't have to wait," she said.

If receiving a test in Maine, people need to quarantine while waiting for the results, she said. To find out where to get tested she said, the easiest way is to Google "Maine COVID testing,” "Keep Maine Healthy," or call 211.

The mandate is expected to change May 1, Lambrew said. The testing and quarantining requirement will be lifted after that date when traveling outside of New England. "We will keep an eye on this date," she said, and make changes as necessary.

The specific date of May 1, she said, was set in conjunction with President Biden's statement that there would be vaccines available for all adults by then.